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French defence minister pays surprise visit to Afghanistan
France’s defence minister Gérard Longuet made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Saturday, two days after French Foreign Legion soldiers were killed. During his two-day visit, Longuet is also set to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
AFP - French defence minister Gerard Longuet arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday for a two-day visit to meet troops ahead of the New Year.
During his trip Longuet will meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak.
Longuet touched down in Kabul two days after the death of two French Foreign Legion soldiers who were shot dead by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform in eastern Kapisa province.
At the start of the visit he was due to attend a ceremony for the soldiers before their bodies were repatriated to France.
He will also meet briefly with US General John Allen, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, and visit troops in the field.
Thursday's incident took the death toll among French troops since the start of the war in 2001 to 78.
After the withdrawal of 400 troops this year, France now has 3,600 soldiers in Afghanistan serving under ISAF.
The French death toll in 2011 stands at 26, the highest for the country in the 10-year war, and includes five who were killed in a suicide attack in Kapisa in July.
There are about 130,000 international troops in Afghanistan fighting alongside Afghan government forces against a Taliban-led insurgency.
NATO is handing security over to Afghan forces ahead of the withdrawal of all its combat troops by the end of 2014 and the French have been involved in training up the Afghan army.
After the two deaths in the Tagab valley, France said it was committed to helping develop the Afghan military and described the shooting as an isolated incident.